The best toaster oven has

  • Simple controls. Having lots of settings is nice, but they can make a toaster oven overly complex. Stick to three dials -- cook function, temperature setting and a timer -- if you'll use the oven for basic baking and reheating.
  • Audible alerts. Look for a model that beeps when food is done. It should be loud enough to hear, yet not sound like the smoke detector going off in the kitchen.
  • Auto-eject racks. A rack that pops out halfway when the oven door is opened makes it easier to remove hot food.
  • Automatic shut-off. Reduce the risk of burned food and accidental fires with an auto shut-off feature. Most toaster ovens turn off after 30 to 60 minutes.
  • A removable, accessible crumb tray. A crumb tray that slides out from the front rather than the back can be emptied while the oven is hot. Otherwise, you'll need to move or lift the oven to access the tray. A crumb tray that removes completely is also easier to clean than one that does not.
  • A nonstick interior. Toaster ovens with nonstick interiors are easy to clean. Some models also come with nonstick baking trays.

Know before you go

What do you plan to cook? Some toaster ovens toast six slices of bread at a time; others toast two to four slices. They also can bake meats and cook pizzas. Determining the types and quantities of food you want to cook will help you decide what size toaster oven you need.

How much counter space do you have? Toaster ovens come in all sizes. Know beforehand what your space limitations are, making sure to include extra room around the unit for ventilation.

Do you prefer convection cooking? Many -- but not all -- toaster ovens have a convection feature that speeds up cooking and saves energy.

Value expectations: the dollars and cents of it

Buying a toaster oven can be quite an investment. Our Best Reviewed convection oven, the Breville The Smart Oven BOV800XL, costs $250. Others are priced in the $100 to $200 range, while toaster/toaster oven combos cost $100 or less. All the ovens in this report come with a warranty, which owners use often when their toaster ovens go on the blink. Aside from buying extra accessories like baking pans, no additional costs are associated with owning a toaster oven. In fact, using a toaster oven instead of a conventional oven can save you money on energy costs.

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